Sony Xperia X and Sony Xperia XA Review

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  • Pros

    • Modern design, great build
    • Battery will still hold good charge well into lifecycle
    • Practical performance
  • Cons

    • Devices are not waterproof
    • Sony Xperia XA takes just average photographs for a mid-range phone
    • Odd button arrangement

Quick Take

Both the Sony Xperia X and XA are good enough to recommend. They are practical, mid-range smartphones with swift performance and excellent build quality.


Sony flagship smartphones are reliable, consistent, and often conservative with new features and technologies. With the Sony Xperia X and Sony Xperia XA, that’s true with its midrange offerings as well.

Inexpensive smartphones from Chinese manufacturers like ZTE, Huawei, and Xiaomi are flooding this market segment, and Sony hopes a fresh combination of features can help these two 5-inch Xperias compete. In other words, Sony wants to attract customers in the mid-range market by offering the same excellent experience from its flagships at a lower price.

The Sony Xperia XA features an HD display, MediaTek’s octa-core Helio P10 processor, and a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera; while the slightly more powerful Xperia X has a Full HD display, Qualcomm’s hexa-core Snapdragon 650, and a 23-megapixel back camera. The devices are identical on a software level, and run nearly pure Android OS 6.0.1 (Marshmallow) with only slight cosmetic tweaks.

Sony Xperia X

Sony Xperia X

Sony Xperia XA

Sony Xperia XA

Build & Design

Even with a square design, Sony smartphones are recognizable for their modern appearance. And the two new Xperias have an up-to-date aesthetic, aided by their exceptionally robust finish, build material, and 2.5D glass display.

Sony Xperia XA back panel

Sony Xperia XA back panel

The Xperia XA features an edge-to-edge display, with almost no display bezel, while its side curvatures naturally flow to the rounded metal ring around the edges. The back is polycarbonate, which is a highly solid and resilient plastic. The more powerful Sony Xperia X has a thicker bezel, with polycarbonate sides and a metal rear panel.

The Xperias are two of the most attractive mid-range smartphones we’ve seen, and have almost identical dimensions: 142 x 69 x 7.9 mm (5.62 x 2.73 x 0.31 inches) for the Xperia X, and 143 x 67 x 7.9 mm (5.65 x 2.63 x 0.31 inches) for the Xperia XA. The metal clad Xperia X is somewhat heavier, weighing 153 grams (5.40 ounces), while the Xperia XA weighs 137 grams (4.83 ounces). Both feel comfortable and solid in hand. Neither easily slips out and it’s evident Sony put a lot into the industrial designs.

While IP69 certification is common with the Z series, Sony failed to include with the new X and XA, meaning neither is waterproof. At least, Sony is not claiming either is waterproof, but reps did comment that both can still get a little wet and function just fine. It’s a flagship feature that doesn’t lessen the practical nature of the phone on the everyday level, and the user experience remains the same.

The button arrangement on the right side could present problems, given that the volume rocker is situated under the power key, putting it out of thumb’s reach. There’s a physical camera button on the right bottom, which has limited purpose to a certain degree as the devices are not waterproof (touchscreens don’t function very well while wet, making smartphone photography near impossible). The Xperia X also has a built-in fingerprint reader in the power key.

Sony Xperia XA button placement

Sony Xperia XA button placement

Sony Xperia X button placement

Sony Xperia X button placement

The left side includes the nanoSIM and microSD card slots (the microSD slop doubles as another SIM tray in the dual-SIM version). The upper side includes a 3.5-mm audio jack and a secondary microphone, while the lower side on both devices holds the speaker, primary microphone, and microUSB 2.0 input. The rear includes the NFC and Sony logos, along with the camera lens. Its signature ring slightly sticks out from the back cover. Neither device has a removable battery.

Display

Sony Xperia X back panel

Sony Xperia X back panel

Both Android smartphones feature 5-inch IPS LCD displays. The more powerful Xperia X has a Full HD resolution (1080 x 1920), while the less powerful Xperia XA has ‘just’ an HD resolution (720 x 1280). The Xperia X sports 441 pixels per inch, while the Xperia XA has a 294 ppi count. In addition both use slightly different screen technologies that affect the overall display quality.

The Sony Xperia X has a Bravia Triluminos and X-Reality screen, meaning it also has so-called Quantum Dot technology. This results in above-average color saturation that impresses visually, even if it doesn’t look entirely realistic. Overall color calibration is decent besides, making it easier to also overlook the white balance shift toward blue tones. All of this results in a very sustainable contrast, and the Xperia X does very well in direct sunlight, and has wide viewing angles.

Those flaws are more pronounced on the Sony Xperia XA. Pixel density is high enough for sharp imaging; however, the white balance shift towards the blue part of the specter as well. That, coupled with the less intense saturation, results in unrealistic color calibration. Thankfully, Sony enabled manual settings for red, green, and blue. So it’s possible to tweak the XA display into something more impressive. Unfortunately, contrast sustainability is just average.

Performance

The Xperia X and Xperia XA each have a different hardware platform, but offer an almost the identical fluid performance.

The Sony Xperia X has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 chipset, which comes with two Cortex-A72 cores running a 1.8GHz clock and four Cortex-A53 cores running a 1.4GHz clock, with Adreno 510 GUP, as well as 3GB of RAM. It has 32 or 64GB of memory storage and can be expanded with additional 256GB with microSD cards. With a Geekbench 3 multi-core score of 3790, this configuration performs only slightly poorer on synthetic benchmarks than Sony’s latest flagship model, the Xperia Z5. More recent high-end handsets score around 5400. Otherwise, all tasks run fast and without any lag in use, including demanding games.

The Sony Xperia XA has a MediaTek MT6755 Helio P10 chipset with eight Cortex-A53 cores running a 2GHz clock and Mali-T860MP2 graphic chip, and 2GB of RAM. There is 16GB of memory storage, with microSD support up to 256GB. Geekbench 3 crashed each time we ran it during testing. In practice, there’s little to no difference between it and the X.

Battery Life

Both devices ship with Qnovo batteries, which support the Quick Charge 2.0 standard, and degrade more slowly over time compared against other batteries. This means the battery will hold a better charge after a few years of service than other device batteries.

Overall battery autonomy is average for both, but is slightly better on the Xperia X. Its battery capacity is 2600mAh, while the Xperia XA has a 2300mAh battery. The Xperia X lasted 7 hours and 10 minutes streaming video with the display brightness set to max, while the Xperia XA lasted 6 hours and 59 minutes. Both devices will last a full day with intense use. Using Sony’s Stamina power saving mode, or Stamina Ultra, will stretch that out to about two days with the Xperia X.

Camera

The camera performance of the two Xperias is enough to be a deciding factor in purchasing. The Sony Xperia X has a 23-megapixel rear camera, with a 1/2.3-inch sensor and f/2.0. It has an impressive 13-megapixel selfie camera, also with f/2.0 and a 1.3-inch sensor. Just looking at the specs, this front-facing camera matches the rear camera on the iPhone 6S. The Sony XA has a similar camera in the back, with an 8-megapixel camera in the front, and a ¼-inch sensor.

Sony Xperia XA camera lens

Sony Xperia XA camera lens

Sony Xperia X camera lens

Sony Xperia X camera lens

The more powerful Android smartphone also boasts Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, and can hold a selected object in focus while moving.

Sony Xperia X selfie camera

Sony Xperia X selfie camera

While its biggest advantage are the high-resolution 23-megapixel images, the Sony Xperia X still takes the same level of images as other mid-range phones. The X performance can’t match the output from the Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphones, or other flagships.

The big issue affecting image is low-light noise, and the excessive retouching that occurs with the noise reduction feature. Additionally, the images suffer from under-saturated colors when viewed off the smartphone; given that the phone’s display saturates the colors with more intensity while displaying them. Thankfully, this can be fixed by manually setting the dynamic range. The selfie camera offers similar results, just with less resolution. For a front camera, that’s not bad.

The Sony Xperia XA takes similar images, but the issues are harder to fix with editing due to the smaller resolution.

Conclusion

Sony Xperia X

Both the Sony Xperia X and XA are good enough to recommend. They are practical, mid-range smartphones with swift performance and excellent build quality. The X is definitely the superior of the two, given its display and camera performance. But in day-to-day use, the XA performs just as well. Given Sony’s reputation, we’re confident in saying they’ll serve users well for a number of years, making their relatively high price easier to accept. This is still an unknown with the emerging Chinese alternatives.

Pros:

  • Modern design, great build
  • Battery will still hold good charge well into lifecycle
  • Practical performance

Cons:

  • Devices are not waterproof
  • Sony Xperia XA takes just average photographs for a mid-range phone
  • Odd button arrangement

 

 

 



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